Fairness in Federated Learning via Core-Stability

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Bhaskar Ray Chaudhury, Linyi Li, Mintong Kang, Bo Li, Ruta Mehta


Federated learning provides an effective paradigm to jointly optimize a model benefited from rich distributed data while protecting data privacy. Nonetheless, the heterogeneity nature of distributed data, especially in the non-IID setting, makes it challenging to define and ensure fairness among local agents. For instance, it is intuitively ``unfair" for agents with data of high quality to sacrifice their performance due to other agents with low quality data. Currently popular egalitarian and weighted equity-based fairness measures suffer from the aforementioned pitfall. In this work, we aim to formally represent this problem and address these fairness issues using concepts from co-operative game theory and social choice theory. We model the task of learning a shared predictor in the federated setting as a fair public decision making problem, and then define the notion of core-stable fairness: Given $N$ agents, there is no subset of agents $S$ that can benefit significantly by forming a coalition among themselves based on their utilities $U_N$ and $U_S$ (i.e., $ (|S|/ N) U_S \geq U_N$). Core-stable predictors are robust to low quality local data from some agents, and additionally they satisfy Proportionality (each agent gets at least $1/n$ fraction of the best utility that she can get from any predictor) and Pareto-optimality (there exists no model that can increase the utility of an agent without decreasing the utility of another), two well sought-after fairness and efficiency notions within social choice. We then propose an efficient federated learning protocol CoreFed to optimize a core stable predictor. CoreFed determines a core-stable predictor when the loss functions of the agents are convex. CoreFed also determines approximate core-stable predictors when the loss functions are not convex, like smooth neural networks. We further show the existence of core-stable predictors in more general settings using Kakutani's fixed point theorem. Finally, we empirically validate our analysis on two real-world datasets, and we show that CoreFed achieves higher core-stability fairness than FedAvg while maintaining similar accuracy.